Kim Yang Gon, a close aid to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, has been killed in a car accident, according to the Toronto Sun. The state-controlled North Korean broadcaster issued a statement, hosted with YouTube.
The North Korean Central News Agency stated that Kim Yang Gon was 73-years-old and that he died at 6:15 a.m. on December 29.
“Kim Yang Gon is a revolutionary soldier faithful to President Kim Il Sung and leader Kim Jong Il and the closest comrade-in-arms and steadfast revolutionary comrade of Marshal Kim Jong Un,” the news agency said.
Kim Yang Gon is described as having come from a “very poor” family with his father working as a day-laborer during the period of Japanese colonialism on the Korean peninsula. He later became a political activist and “able revolutionary” and developed close ties with both Kim Jong Il and Kim Il Sung.
— NDTV (@ndtv) December 30, 2015
Some are speculating that the death may be “suspicious,” North Korea is notorious for its human rights abuses, with many former top aides dying in ways that could be deemed suspicious.
“North Korea has a long track record of suspicious deaths around high-level officials,” Russian scholar Andrei Lankov, a North Korea investigator was quoted. “Most die either because they are machine-gunned, or they die in car crashes.”
Roads in North Korea are said to be poorly maintained, and few people can afford cars, causing some to wonder about the veracity of the official story behind Kim Yang Gon’s death. In 2013, Ri Je Gang, a top North Korean bureaucrat, was reported to have died in a traffic accident. Kim Yong Sun, who was described as being Kim Yang Gon’s forerunner, was killed in a car accident in 2003, as reported by the New York Times.
At the time of his death, the North Korean news agency described Kim Yong Sun as a “loyal revolutionary” and bestowed upon him the “Kim Il Sung Order.” In the 2003 New York Times article the death is not questioned, nor described as being suspicious in any way.
Connie Kim with Arirang noted that there is speculation surrounding Kim Yang Gon’s death; that it may be “suspicious.” Some are speculating that the death of the top North Korean aide may be part of an “ongoing power struggle” in the isolated country and designed to allow leader Kim Jong Un to “maintain his grip on power.” While North Korea has claimed responsibility for the execution of many citizens, as well as keeping a highly criticized prison camp system, as reported by the Inquisitr, some suspect that the deaths of Kim Yang Gon and Kim Yong Sun don’t add up.
Because North Korea is one of the most closed countries in the world, it is difficult for agencies such as the United Nations and the Red Cross, as well as other international observers, to determine the truth about the treatment of accused criminals. Learning the true of fate of Kim Yang Gon and Kim Yong Sun could be close to impossible, even if the two counties ever achieve reunification.
Kim Yang Gon was a familiar name in North Korea’s international affairs. In August, he was described as having pulled the two Koreas “back from the brink of conflict” after the detonation of a landmine near the heavily fortified and patrolled border between the two nations. He also played a key role in brokering a 2007 summit between the north and south.
Though Kim Yang Gon was described as a “dove” of relations between North and South Korea, his death is not expected to have any significant impact on their fragile, yet existent, diplomatic standing.
[AP Photo/Korea Pool]